It happens on hard days. Little man gets upset and screams "NO!" He pushes his sister out of his way, terrified that she will grab "his" toy. Indignation rises up inside of me. How can this precious son of mine, dearly loved, make little red-headed sister cry, hurt and confused? Anger flashes in my breast, followed swiftly by icy-cold waves of fear. What have I done wrong as a mother? I want my home to be happy; I want my children to love each other, to treat each other the way they would like to be treated.
In moments like these, when I follow fear, when I let it wrap its lying tentacles around my mind, I revert to old patterns of thinking, patterns that say, "If you follow this method, your child will turn out great. You can control your child's destiny if you just do xyz." Fear makes me long to take matters with my children into my own hands, to believe that I can shape the person I think my child should be.
And yet, relying on a method, believing that I am the shaper of my child, would be nothing less than idolatry, a closed fist shaken in God's face, declaring, "I can do this by myself;" a muted hiss in God's ear, "If I trust you to work in my child's heart, you might not come through for me."
Fear breeds anger. Fear and anger nurture a controlling attitude, an attitude that reacts harshly to the child's misbehavior, an attitude that triggers septic, toxic, manipulative, ugly, words and actions.
Fear will reign until we turn our eyes, not to striving harder to be kinder, more full of grace, more able to instruct and teach and admonish our children, but to the One who made us, the One who died for us, the One who lives in us, who is there to grant us a life devoid of fear:
And the fruit of the Spirit is: Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law; (Galatians 5:22-23 YLT)
When we throw out fear, our mommy eyes turn towards Christ, where we remember:
and those who are Christ's, the flesh did crucify with the affections, and the desires; if we may live in the Spirit, in the Spirit also we may walk; let us not become vain-glorious -- one another provoking, one another envying! (Galatians 5:23-26 YLT)
Instead of grabbing my son, yelling at him, punishing him, I turn my eyes heavenward. I see my redeemer, who lives, sitting at God's right hand. My redeemer! How often do I harbor hatred, anger, judgmental thoughts, towards my brother or sister in Christ? And yet God, because of Jesus, forgives me! My son's behavior is no different; in fact, he is acting out of childish immaturity, out of an inability to control all of his frustrated urges.
"Thank you, Jesus, for dying for my sins, and for those of my children," I whisper. "Son, I forgive you, just as God has forgiven me."
I am able to fulfill God's mandate: "And the fathers! provoke not your children, but nourish them in the instruction and admonition of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4 YLT)
Picking up my son, I place him on the couch, gently. "Thank you, Jesus, that as a mom, I am not a slave to anger."
I admonish my child: "In our house, we do not hit or push each other when we are angry."
I instruct him: "When sister has a toy that you are worried about, you can call mommy for help. You can also trade the toy she has for another. Let's practice."
Sometimes, when he is really upset, we pray: "Jesus, thank you for dying for our sins. God, we need wisdom in this situation, we need help calming down, we need you, oh, we need you."
It is easy to rely on a method to calm our fears. It is easy to seek retribution from our children when they do wrong. It is much more difficult, but, oh, so worth it, to go to the cross, to put our eyes on Christ. Doing this reaps a harvest of peace, joy, love, and forgiveness. Mommies and daddies, don't grow weary in parenting under the shadow of the cross! Let Jesus be your example as you deal with the little ones:
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)